A triathlete has become the first person ever with Down’s syndrome to complete a grueling Ironman event.
Chris Nikic, 21, took 16 hours and 46 minutes to swim 2.4 miles, cycle the 112-mile bike ride and run an entire marathon.
The recent high school graduate only took up the sport three years ago, after his dad Nik noticed he wasn’t doing much physical exercise following surgery.
His fitness regime started with a single push up – but on Saturday (7) he entered the record books as the first person with Down’s syndrome to complete an Ironman.
He crossed the line less than 14 minutes under the official cut-off time at the Panama City Beach Ironman in Florida.
It is thought that in Ironman’s 42-year history, no athlete with Down’s syndrome has ever attempted an event, let alone completed it.
Chris’ dad Nik, from Maitland, Florida, said: “If Chris can do an Ironman, he can do anything.
“To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory.
“Ironman has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion, normalcy, and leadership.
“It’s about being an example to other kids and families that face similar barriers, proving no dream or goal is too high.”
His proud coach Dan Grieb added: “I’m no longer surprised by what Chris can accomplish because I recognise who Chris is; a human being that has goals and dreams just like everyone else.
“He wants to make the path easier for those just like him and can follow his lead.”
Chris’ family said he became “increasingly sedentary” after undergoing four surgeries in his teens and his dad Nik encouraged him to be more active.
He urged him to try and be 1% better every day, and started with one push up.
The Special Olympics athlete started the competition at 5.52am taking to the Gulf of Mexico outside Panama City Beach’s Pier Park, completing the swim in one hour and 54 minutes.
Despite enduring fire ant bites and a bike crash, he completed the cycle in eight hours and 12 minutes.
Chris dug deep and finished the 26.2 marathon run in six hours and 18 minutes, taking his total to 16 hours, 46 minutes and nine seconds.
In recognition of this accomplishment, Chris has been certified as a record holder in the Guinness World Records.
Editor-in-chief at Guinness World Records Craig Glenday said: “It’s been a privilege to follow Chris’s progress remotely and I’m absolutely overjoyed to see him cross the finish line.”
Chris is also now working on qualifying for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games taking place in Orlando.